A Cornwallian Excursion

A very popular destination in the Plymouth area is Mount Edgcumbe House, in Cremyll, Cornwall, so on the spur of the moment, we decided to visit the ancient homestead of the Edgcumbe family. If you don’t have a car – and pardon my French, but who would want to drive in the UK ??? – the easiest way to get from Plymouth, Devon to the Rame peninsula, Cornwall is via the Cremyll ferry across the Tamar river estuary, which has been operating in one form or another for at least a thousand years.

It was an easy walk from our place to the ferry landing at Admiral’s Hard in Stonehouse, except we found a lot of exposed sea bottom instead of a ferry landing. It was low tide, meaning the designated ferry pier was well above water levels. While waiting for the ferry to arrive, we walked down toward the water’s edge surveying a lot of seaweed with gulls feeding on the exposed aquatic mollusks or taking short naps in cushy algae nests. The salty-algae-decay smell at low tide is an acquired taste which possibly only sailors and seagulls appreciate. Gradually more and more clueless tourists paced the concrete pier trying to work out where the ferry might land.

The Edgcumbe Belle arrived and made fast fighting choppy seas and strong winds. The mate had his hands full helping our motley crew scrambled aboard.

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The 10-minute crossing was a little rough and moist, but otherwise uneventful and we landed in Cornwall in good spirit.

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BTW, taking the Cremyll Ferry was great fun. I hyper-linked their “history” page because I think it’s very sweet to read about this little bit of regional history. Meanwhile, we settled in the Orangerie Tea Room overlooking the Italian Gardens

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I was looking forward to some long anticipated cream tea only to learn that the kitchen was overwhelmed by a private party on top of the demands of more tourists than anticipated braving the crappy weather, so an order of cream tea would take 45 minutes, in all likelihood more. Yikes! Cider then, never mind the disappointment. But the kids behind the counter tried really hard and told us upfront, so there were no hard feelings.

I’m a great lover of scones and anything related to traditional teas, as well as pies, tarts, and pasties. Imagine then, that in almost five weeks in England, I never got to have either traditional steak & kidney pie, or a pasty, or a traditional Devon cream tea. There I was in Devon eschewing clotted cream! Ils sont fous, ces Allemans, definitely! Well, I had jugged hare once and it was delicious.

After our refreshment, we walked up to the castle across a magnificent lawn boarded by even more magnificent trees.

The castle appeared all dark and gloomy at first, but then, this is England and slightly drizzly and dreary is par for the course. To make up for it, Mount Edgcumbe House is surrounded by beautiful gardens, another English tradition. Sir Richard Edgcumbe built the castle around 1550 and it was the family seat of the Earls of Edgcumbe till 1971. Since then the estate has been jointly owned by the Councils of Cornwall County and the City of Plymouth.

Upon entering Mount Edgcumbe House, it has to be said that one leaves any possible gloominess at the door! As a matter of fact, Mount Edgcumbe House was designed to have bright rooms flooded with light. The original owner was considered quite mad by his contemporaries for building a house with big outward facing windows without any defense features as was customary in Tudor times.

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The council employees we encountered during our visit were very helpful and exceptionally knowledgeable about local history, the Edgcumbe family, and the estate.

In particular, the gentleman who greeted us in the elegant two-story central hall of Edgecumbe House and who presented us with a detailed, entertaining, and educational narrative of the family’s contemporary history deserves high praise. Chapeau! Sadly we didn’t get his name.

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His colleague Paula had some fun with us in the “costume department” of the house, outfitting “Sir Barry McLeon” of the Newcastle McLeons with a fancy hat and coat for his audience with the Earl. Barry’s maternal grandmother came from Newcastle, you know, before settling in the colonies around 1915.

After we left the lovely Mount Edgcumbe House, we took a roundabout walk through the park and along the coast, enjoying the magnificent landscape until it started to rain in earnest. Galumphing back to the landing we caught the waiting ferry back home to Devon.

The tide had come in, altering the appearance of the pier completely.

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It was still drizzling when we got back, so we hightailed it around the ever present seabirds

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to the Royal William’s for a reviving “Dark & Stormy” apéro and refried beans and enchiladas at Las Iguanas. Not to mention my crayfish/avocado/cranberry salad. Good to be home!

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